Kevin Li, class of 2019 marketing and information systems double major, writes about the Diversity Action Forum (Part II), held on Feb. 26, 2018, at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business.
When people think about “diversity events,” there is a common feeling that they exist solely just to check boxes. But at the Smith School, diversity and inclusion are pillars of the community that members constantly work to better understand and use in their daily lives.
To Tricia Homer, manager of education and training at the Office of Diversity Initiatives in Smith, diversity is asking “what action can I take [to] better people in engaging in dialogue rather than debate?” Homer took action on Feb. 26 when she brought the Smith community together at the Diversity Action Forum Part II to engage in a discussion about differences. The event was co-facilitated by Jackie Pearce Garrett, a UMD alumna and facilitator in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion Words of Engagement Intergroup Dialogue program.
This event was in part of a series focused on understanding both the micro and macro levels of diversity dialogues. Smith undergraduate students, graduate students and faculty came together here to dive deeper into what they can do on an individual basis to improve inclusion on a day-to-day basis. Homer greatly emphasized how much one can do to create a dialogue with simple actions.
“Dialogue is about how we can see and connect to the humanity in each other,” Homer said. “It allows us to build understanding and empathy with people who might have different experiences and perspectives from us.”
During the event, participants passionately explored their own identities and worked to answer the question: how can we think about our lens and how can we be more conscious of that lens while being able to listen to other peoples' experiences? They shared stories and worked together on activities focusing on active listening and differentiating empathy versus sympathy. One could easily see how engrossed these participants were and how excited they were to learn from each other.
When participants were asked about why they decided to come, many said that they not only wanted to learn more about diversity to improve their lives but also improve the lives of those they affect. This response reflects exactly what the members of the Smith community value which is the importance of differences and how accepting diversity can truly benefit everyone.
As the event concluded, Homer received a great deal of enthusiastic and positive feedback as participants felt that it was unlike any other diversity event. Carl Camasco, director of veteran affairs at Smith, helped facilitate the event and commended it stating that it was “one of the best D+I trainings [he’s] ever been to.” Many participants left wanting more and wanted to see even more events in the future especially in Smith curriculums.
The Smith School believes that diversity is about including as many people as possible no matter how different they are, and this event is but one way that Smith shares this belief with the world.
Special thanks to Amy Swann, Brittany Van Ness, Jason DeSanto Jones, Kecia Hansard, Carl Camasco, Melanee Bryant, Greg Rafal, Erin Moore, and Porter Brockway for facilitating the event.
For more information about diversity at Smith, visit the Office of Diversity Initiatives website.